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To date, the UK government has adopted a “pro innovation” approach to AI regulation, refraining from legislation. This has been with a view to enable the UK to keep pace with rapid developments in AI.  However, this looks set to change with the recent publication of a first draft Artificial Intelligence (Regulation and Employment Rights) Bill (“the Bill”), potentially marking the starting point for more formal regulation, particularly in relation to workplace decision making by AI. This blog explores what the Bill proposes by way of regulation, and some practical tips for what employers can be doing now.Continue Reading AI in the workplace – is regulation on its way in the UK?

On 14 May 2024, the government and financial services regulators published their responses to the recommendations made by the Sexism in the City inquiry. Those hoping that the inquiry would quickly lead to solid commitments for reform to tackle sexism in financial services may be somewhat disappointed. While the inquiry certainly created momentum around the discussion, the current government does not intend to push forward legislative changes, and the two regulators (the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA)) are still deep in review of their policy direction, although they have set some expectations about their priorities.

In this blog, we look at the background to the Sexism in the City inquiry, the current status in respect of the inquiry’s recommendations, and where this leaves financial services organisations.

What is the Sexism in the City inquiry?

Launched in July 2023, the House of Commons Treasury Committee’s inquiry was intended as a follow up to the Women in Finance inquiry from 2017. The 2023 inquiry set out to explore progress on issues affecting women in financial services, including the removal of barriers to entry and progression to successful careers, representation at board level, pay gaps, and misogyny and harassment. 

After months of reviewing written evidence, hearing oral evidence and holding focus groups, the Committee published its report on Sexism in the City on 5 March 2024. While the report noted some improvement for women in financial services since the 2017 inquiry, particularly on female representation in senior roles, it also expressed disappointment at the lack of progress on improving instances of non-financial misconduct (e.g. sexual harassment and bullying) against women and the generally poor culture continuing to cause challenges for women in the industry. The inquiry made a number of recommendations to government, and the two regulators, to accelerate change.

How have the government and regulators responded to the inquiry’s recommendations?

Two months after the Committee’s report, the response from HM Treasury, the FCA and PRA has been published. Whilst there is a broad agreement with the Committee’s comments and sentiments about the need for improvement, and various explanations about what steps have already been taken or are currently ongoing, the government and regulators largely stopped short of committing to prompt and significant changes in line with the recommendations.  Continue Reading What next for women in financial services? The government and regulators respond to recommendations from the Sexism in the City inquiry

Paternity leave has not been forgotten in the swathe of family related legislative changes taking effect in April 2024. However, anyone hoping for significant changes will be disappointed. The changes are limited to improving flexibility for eligible employees wanting to take the existing right to two weeks of statutory paternity leave. There is no increase

The practice of fire and rehire has hit the headlines and been the topic of political debate in recent years. While the current UK government has rejected calls to outlaw entirely the practice, in early 2022 it committed to introducing a statutory code of practice to set out expected standards of behaviour and best practice.

Our blog from 13 February 2023 considered the draft code as the consultation was launched. We now provide an update on the content of the new Code and explores some challenges and tips for employers faced with navigating a change of terms and conditions once the Code comes into force, including the punitive sanctions for non-compliance, as well as a look ahead to what might change if we have a change to a Labour party government in the next 12 months.Continue Reading Developments with the UK’s ‘fire and rehire’ clampdown: what’s next?

After years of talk about improving the legal framework to promote more flexibility in the modern working environment, the UK is now on the cusp of changes to its statutory flexible working regime taking effect. Our blog post from August 2023 provides a background to reform and the changes as initially announced. We now provide an update on what is changing and when, and provide our top tips for employers preparing for and managing flexible working requests beginning in April 2024.

What are the current flexible working rules in the UK?

Under current statutory rules, employees with 26 weeks of continuous service have the right to request flexible working, typically seeking changes to their days, hours, pattern or place of work. The request must be made in writing and explain what impact the change would have on the employer and how this can be dealt with. Only one request can be made within a 12-month period, and employers should deal with the request within three months. There is no obligation on employers to accept a request for flexible working but must consider requests reasonably and only reject a request on the basis of one or more prescribed statutory grounds (such as the burden of additional costs, the detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand or performance/quality and an inability to reorganise work among existing staff).Continue Reading Flexible working reform in the UK – Are you ready for April?

Employers embarking on redundancy or restructuring exercises need to be aware of significant changes from 6 April 2024 to UK redundancy rules which give priority protection to employees on maternity, adoption and shared parental leave (SPL). The changes from 6 April mean that the period of priority protection will extend to 18 months and will also apply to pregnant employees from the day they notify their employer of their pregnancy. This is important because a failure to give priority protection can result in a redundancy dismissal being both automatically unfair and deemed discriminatory.

This blog explains the upcoming changes and considers issues arising and how employers can manage the impact. It also looks at the practical issues arising from a larger number of employees being given priority status.Continue Reading UK redundancy protection – significant changes from April 2024

2024 is set to be a busy year for employment lawyers and human resources professionals, with various new laws expected to come into effect during the course of the year which employers will need to proactively prepare for. We provide an at-a-glance guide of what changes take effect when.

At a glance: Key legislative changes for 2024

Continue Reading Anticipating changes: UK employment law for 2024

When an employer is insolvent and administrators appointed, job losses are often an inevitable consequence. In this blog we look at the legal obligations arising where redundancies meet the threshold for collective consultation, and the implications for administrators arising out of the recent Supreme Court in the case of R (on the application of Palmer) v Northern Derbyshire Magistrates Court and another.

When does the legal obligation to collectively consult apply?

Employers who are proposing to dismiss as redundant 20 or more employees at one establishment within a period of 90 days or less must comply with specific collective consultation obligations under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA).

Whether or not this test is met is not always straightforward, particularly as ‘dismiss as redundant’ has a wide meaning to include any dismissals not related to the individual employee, so would include ‘fire and rehire’ dismissals in the context of facilitating a change to terms and conditions. Also, certain dismissals (e.g voluntary terminations) are counted, but others (e.g. expiry of a fixed term contract) are not.Continue Reading Collective redundancies on insolvency: administrators’ responsibilities and liabilities

One hundred years ago this month, in November 1923, Lord Hewart delivered a famous legal judgment on the principles of open justice, declaring it of fundamental importance that “justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done”. It is in that spirit of open justice that Employment Tribunals (ET) today remain open to the public and the content can freely be reported on in the press and media. As a result, when ET claims are issued, it is not uncommon for the parties to be anxious about who will have access to documentation that is presented to the ET in proceedings, and what they can do with it.

In light of a recent announcement that ET hearings will now be routinely recorded from November 2023, we take this opportunity to explore what “open justice” means in the context of online hearings, and who can see or hear what and when.Continue Reading UK Employment Tribunal: third party access to Tribunal pleadings and documentation

With the 2023 winter work party season upon us, company, location, or team level seasonal gatherings provide a chance for employers to thank staff for their hard work and for everyone to relax, socialise and have some fun with their colleagues. Yet without careful thought and planning, they can be problematic for employers who can find themselves faced with fallout from the festivities.Continue Reading Get the party started: avoiding HR issues at festive events